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Monday, July 6, 2009

Tournament ends on historic note

Photo Titled Roger's round of honour
Roger's round of honour
Roger Federer's epic and historic victory in the men's singles final brought the 123rd Championships to a fitting climax in the evening sunshine on Centre Court. After four and a quarter hours he finally overcame the American Andy Roddick in a 30-game fifth set, the longest in Wimbledon history, to claim a record 15th Grand Slam title. How appropriate it was that Pete Sampras, with whom Federer had shared the record following his success last month at the French Open, was a surprise visitor, joining other greats such as Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg in the Royal Box to see history made.

Federer's sixth Wimbledon in seven years of appearances in the final also moves him within one singles victory at The Championships of Sampras, who shares the record of seven with the 19th century English hero, William Renshaw.

Federer had always looked on course for the final once the top seed, Rafael Nadal, pulled out with knee problems. The 27-year-old Swiss dropped only one set en route to the final and his progress became increasingly assured as round succeeded round.

In the other half of the draw it developed into a battle between Roddick and the 22-year-old British hope, Andy Murray, a battle that was resolved in the semi-finals when Roddick, serving brilliantly, prevailed in four sets.The 26-year-old Roddick has made a remarkable comeback since taking on Larry Stefanki as his coach towards the end of last year, and his skills were fully tested, not only by Murray, but by Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion here, in the quarter-finals.

Although Federer would emphatically not agree, it was a pity in one way that Roddick could not claim the title, which would have then meant that the US had won both major singles prizes in the same year for the first time since 2000, when Sampras and Venus Williams were acclaimed as champions.

The hopes of Venus, chasing her sixth Wimbledon victory, were dashed in the women's final when she was beaten in straight sets by her younger sister, Serena. It was a merited win, Serena's third Wimbledon, and the 21st time these two had faced each other in top-level professional play. It proved, beyond doubt, that since the retirement of Justine Henin a year ago and the struggle that Maria Sharapova has experienced in coming back from a shoulder operation, the Williams sisters rule women's tennis.

The manner in which Venus crushed the current world number one, Dinara Safina, in the semi-finals for the loss of one game offered dramatic proof of this, and it is difficult to see a challenger emerging to them at present, though the return to the game of Belgium's Kim Clijsters in the autumn after having a baby may prove something of a challenge.

So dominant are the Williamses that, a couple of hours after their final match, they were back on court to win the women's doubles against the Australian pair, Rennae Stubbs and Samantha Stosur. The men's doubles was retained by Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the second seeds, who defeated the American twins and top seeds, Bob and Mike Bryan, and the mixed doubles title went to Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

For Serbia, such a dominant nation a year ago, it was a bleak Wimbledon in a depressing 2009 season. Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian champion, fell to Tommy Haas at the quarter-final stage, while Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic were early casualties.

Ivanovic, who appeared a new, glamorous star in the making by winning Roland Garros last year, has done little since and retired injured in her fourth round encounter with Venus Williams, while Jankovic, who ended 2008 as world number one, once more experienced illness problems as she crashed to defeat against a 17-year-old American qualifier, Melanie Oudin.

For Russia's Elena Dementieva it proved another "nearly" occasion as the woman who has still to win a Grand Slam in her 11th year of trying, held a match point against Serena Williams in their semi-final, only to miss the chance of her first Wimbledon final.
Apart from Andy Murray's charge through the men's draw, the biggest talking point for British supporters was the expensive, gleaming new roof over Centre Court, which has been three years in the construction.

And, in a perverse sort of way the British climate showed that, this year at any rate, a roof was not needed. It was closed only once, on the evening of the second Monday, following a short spell of rain that halted the Amelia Mauresmo-Safina match and remained closed for the duration of |Murray's five-set marathon against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka.

There is no doubt that the roof will be needed at future Championships but, for this year, at least, the fact that it remained open was a blessing, an indication that fine weather ensured the punctual finish to an excellent tournament.

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